Don’t worry, the treadmill isn’t for me – #EndTheAwkward

Guest post by Emily Yates, a travel writer, disability awareness trainer and consultant – she’s currently working on accessibility in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Emily is sharing some of her awkward moments as part of our End the Awkward campaign.

My boyfriend is really into his mountaineering and is currently training for an ultra-marathon. He recently ordered a treadmill to help him on his way, and arranged for it to be delivered to the house during the day. Portrait of Emily, a young woman with pink hairHe was at work when the delivery man turned up and rang the bell, but I was home and opened the door to let the guy in.

When he saw me sat there in my wheelchair smiling at him, he almost dropped the treadmill and ran for the hills! He was so visibly shocked and worried he’d got the wrong house number – how could I, a girl with cerebral palsy, use this running machine?!

After apologising and assuring him this was the right house and my boyfriend had actually placed the order, we were able to giggle about it. And of course, I texted Rob straight after to tell him of my awkward, but hilarious, ten minutes

A magnet for awkwardness

For some reason, my disability and the fact I always have bright clothes and hair seem to reduce the need for people to give me personal space. Maybe I’m just a magnet for awkwardness!

Emily sitting in her wheelchair, a beach behind her
Emily on a trip to Australia

Guys seem to think it’s totally acceptable to come up to me in a bar and ask whether or not I can have sex. My response? Yeah, I can mate, but I won’t be having it with you!

I’ve been on planes where I’ve had to crawl down the length of the aisle to get to the toilet after being told that the plane’s in-flight wheelchair has been ‘forgotten’.Emily sitting in her wheelchair, smiling at the camera

I’ve let go of my wheelchair whilst transferring into my car, and watched it roll across the car park at ridiculous speed before smashing into someone else’s vehicle (oops!).

And the other day, I was in Starbucks and struggling to open a ketchup sachet for my sausage sandwich. After not succeeding with my hands, I put the sachet between my teeth and pulled. No luck. I must’ve been quite obviously struggling as a man came over to me, took it out of my mouth, battled with it himself then handed it to me, a victorious look on his face (and probably a reasonable amount of my spit on his fingers).

In one respect, this guy made my day with his problem solving, but really… Who does that?

So, tips to help us all be less awkward: If you want to get your leg over, try and build up the atmosphere just a little bit first. Don’t be surprised when the product you’re delivering to a house isn’t fit for a wheelchair user. And absolutely allow everyone to keep their ketchup to themselves.

We’ve partnered with Channel 4 to produce six short films on awkwardness and disability.

6 steps to encourage healthy eating habits in disabled children

Deborah French is a cookery teacher and activity coordinator for disabled children and their families. She has a son on the autistic spectrum, a daughter with Down’s syndrome and young twins, and is the author of a new cookery book for disabled children.

This blog has now moved to our online community.

Join Deborah on our online community.

Walking for wellbeing

In September we’re encouraging people to get active and take part in our Steptember event! The event may be called Steptember, but walking isn’t the only way to reach your daily step count. You can run, wheel, cycle, swim or even dance your way to glory. If you use a wheelchair, here’s some inspiration for you.

Guest post from Bonnie Friend, writer for Walk magazine

There is an awful lot in the news at the moment on the power of walking for improved health. It’s a great way to lose weight, gentle on the joints, and gets you out into the fresh air.

What is sometimes overlooked though is the impact that it can have on psychological wellbeing, and speaking to members of the Ramblers and Disabled Ramblers, the potency of that becomes a striking reality.

Walk magazine spoke to one lady who was able to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through walking and a man who, after 20 years suffering with depression, declared that the best antidote he has found is to garner the courage to head out for a stroll along the Pennine Way.

It is not to say that walking is going to be the complete answer to every problem, but in a world where we struggle to find solutions to complex issues, it is reassuring to know that something as simple as a walk can provide untold comfort.

Where this becomes a whole lot trickier however, is where mobility poses an extra obstacle, and this is what the people at Disabled Ramblers have been working tirelessly to rectify.

There are thousands of miles of tracks and footpaths around the UK, and only a fraction of them are currently as accessible as they could be. Predominantly in national parks such as the Malvern Hills.

John Cuthbertson, Director of Disabled Ramblers is passionate about initiatives that look to remove or find alternatives to manmade barriers such as steps, stiles and gates that limit accessibility for anyone with a disability.

Another part of their work sees the categorization of walking routes for their accessibility level, and the organization of around 50 nationwide group walks each year. They have a number of specialised mobility scooters (Trampers) available to borrow and group walks see around 20-30 people participating each time alongside 15-25 carers. Details are carefully adhered to in order to make the experience as easy as possible for anyone wanting to join, such as the inclusion of a mobile toilet transported on a trailer.

The upshot of this careful organisation is something that has an indisputably positive outcome. “We have a guy with Motor Neurone Disease who joins us and is adamant that the walks have extended his lifespan,” says John, continuing: “the big things that people experience are good company, meeting like-minded individuals, and a big change in both psychological and physical wellbeing as a result of being able to get out into their beloved countryside.”

As one walker said, “when I reach somewhere beautiful and look around I can’t help but think it would make anyone smile.” If nothing else, that seems like a pretty perfect reason to give it a try.

Has this inspired you? Sign up to Steptember and get out there to explore! 

Five wheelchair exercises you can try at home

We’ve asked Kris, founder of Wheely Good Fitness, to do a guest blog for us on his top five stretch exercises to help increase flexibility and movement.

Kris is taking part in the Virgin London Marathon 2016 – you can sponsor him online.

For those of us new to exercise or restricted by the side effects of disability and health conditions, starting can be extremely daunting. Many of us will be familiar with the saying ‘use it or lose it.’ So it’s important to try as much as possible to keep what we have and improve where we can, to prevent additional health problems.

One of the first things we can lose is our flexibility. Reduced flexibility can restrict our movements, causing stiffness and aches.  Performing stretches on a regular basis can help maintain and improve flexibility, and can easily be made a part of your daily routine.

Here are five important upper body stretches that can be done at home – you can sit either in your wheelchair or on any chair in your house. For all of them, remember to sit upright, with belly button pulled in tight, feet hip-width apart (if your wheelchair allows it).

Chest Stretch

  • Shoulders down
  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Palms facing forward
  • Arms at shoulder heightMan in wheelchair performing chest exercise with arms outstretched
  1. Breathe normally throughout, with your head facing forwards.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Bring your arms slowly together in front of your body, so your palms touch.
  3. Keep them straight and at the same height as your shoulders.
  4. Slowly take the arms out to the side, with palms facing forwards, until you can feel a stretch across your chest.
  5. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Back stretch

  • Shoulders relaxed
  • Take the arms forward slightly, rounding the back
  • Head tilted forward
  • Arms out straightMan in wheelchair performing back stretch, with arms stretched forward and head down
  1. Keep shoulders relaxed and avoid rolling them forward as you move into the stretch.
  2. Bring your arms in front of your body, keeping them straight, palms facing down.
  3. Imagine there’s a rope tied around your wrists, pulling you forward, so you can keep extending your arms.
  4. Allow your lower back to round a little and tilt your head down – you should feel a stretch through the lower and middle part of your back.
  5. Breathe normally, and be aware of your balance.
  6. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Upper body stretch

  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Bring the arms up and over the head
  • Head facing forwards
  • Take the stretch up through the bodyMan in wheelchair performing upper body stretch, with arms stretched upwards
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Start with your arms down by your sides, then slowly bring them out to the side (like wings), taking them as high above the head as you can. As your arms reach shoulder height, lift your chest and torso with them and try to make yourself taller.
  3. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Oblique stretch

  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Bring the arms up to shoulder height 
  • Keep upper body fixed
  • Rotate the body to the sideMan in wheelchair performing oblique stretch, with arms bent out to the sides
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Start by bringing your arms out to the side of the body, elbows flexed and at shoulder height. Keeping your arms, head and upper body fixed, rotate to the side using the lower part of your back until you can feel the stretch down the sides of your body.
  3. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds, then switch and do the other side.
  4. Breathe normally, and try not to lean into the stretch or you won’t get the full benefit.

Hand stretch

  • Shoulders down
  • Take the arms out in front of the body
  • Palms facing down
  • Arms out straightMan in wheelchair performing hand stretch, with arms stretched out forward
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Bring your arms straight forward in front of your body, palms facing down.
  3. Extend your fingers and thumbs, widening as much as possible until you feel a stretch through the palm of your hand.
  4. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds, then switch and do the other side.
  5. Breathe normally, and keep facing forwards.

Some of these stretches can be adapted into exercise movements that you can perform to your favourite music:

  1. Begin by moving the arms in a gentle marching movement to the beat.
  2. Once comfortable change to a similar move as you did for the chest stretch, gently taking the arms out to the side and back in front again eight times, almost like a wide clapping movement and then go back to marching again.
  3. If you feel able to continue, you can then bring in a version of the upper body stretch by taking the arms to shoulder height and down again, repeating 8 times before going back to the march.
  4. The oblique stretch can then be added in for eight moves before returning back to the march.

This short sequence will give you a little bit of an aerobic workout and you can increase how long you perform it as it becomes easier to do.  Begin gently if only for a couple of minutes depending on how challenging you find it and progress as you feel able.

Kris is taking part in the Virgin London Marathon 2016 – you can sponsor him online.

10 tips to get active with your kids this summer

The summer holidays are a great chance to practice getting more active ahead of Steptember, an inclusive event designed to get you moving more, whilst raising some money for Scope!

Here are 10 tips to get more active with your children. 

1.       Go swimming

This is a great activity for all kids, and can be very therapeutic for disabled children. If you’re lucky with the weather, an outdoor pool or Lido in the sun is even more fun!

Young woman riding a bike through a park

2.       Go on a bike ride

It’s the closest thing to flying, and even if you’ve not done it for ages, you never forget!

3.       Camp out

Even if it’s just for one night, it will mean you’re out in nature exploring together as a family, and bound to be a lot more active than when you’re at home.

Young disabled girl dancing4.      Dance off

Make a playlist of all your family’s favourite upbeat songs and then have a dance off!

5.       Fly a kite

Everyone loves a bit of kite flying. You could even make one together the day before.

6.       Walk the dog

Don’t have one? Borrow a neighbour’s or sign up to Borrow My Doggy.

Family of four - mum, dad, and two daughters, one using a wheelchair, laughing together in a forest7.       Go on a family hike

The great thing about the UK is that you’re never too far from a National Park, and a lot of them have many accessible routes and special event days too. You can make it even more exciting by planning a lovely picnic.

8.      Make a den

All kids love to make dens. Why not find some old items around the house to decorate it with, and get constructing together in the garden or local park?

Four young children racing in a garden

9.       Have a race

This could be as simple or complicated as you like. Egg and spoon race? Wheelchair race? Family relay race? Sack race? Whatever you fancy!

10.   Put ideas in a hat!

Can’t decide between yourselves? Each write your active idea down on some paper, pop into a hat and then let your kids pick one out. It’s a great way to avoid arguments and keep things fair!

You can also see our tips for a stress-free summer holiday, and games all children can play

Feeling ready to sign up to Steptember

“Seriously, can you really not talk at all?” – Lost Voice Guy on #EndtheAwkward

Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, is a stand-up comedian who uses a communication aid. This month, he’s turned some of the awkward questions he gets asked about his impairment into a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Disability for Dunces. We caught up with him between performances…

Why did you get involved with End the Awkward?

Lee performing onstage using his iPad
Photo – Subtle Sensor Photography

I suppose I’ve just always felt close to Scope because of my cerebral palsy. I really liked End the Awkward last year, so thought this was a good opportunity to get more involved. I liked the fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously, while also having a serious message to give out.

Do you encounter a lot of awkwardness yourself?

I would say so, yes. I’ve just got used to it really. Funnily enough, it makes for good material when it happens, so I don’t mind it as much these days. People sometimes ask me after a gig if I can actually talk!

In fact, I can give you a few examples straight from my show of things people have asked me:

  • Can you really not talk at all?
  • Have you ever considered an exorcism?
  • Can you have sex?
  • Are you as clever as Stephen Hawking?
  • Can you go to the toilet on your own?

Where do you think that awkwardness comes from?

I think some awkwardness is just natural. But people just aren’t as educated about disabled people as we would like them to be, which is why this campaign helps. Also, people worry too much about saying or doing the wrong thing. If you just enjoy the company of the disabled person instead of worrying, you’ll learn so much more about issues surrounding disabled people.

Tell us a bit about the show – what would you like audiences to take away from it?

Basically, I’ve decided to answer all the stupid questions that I’ve ever been asked about disability. I’m even inviting the public to submit further questions to me if they are curious about anything, and if it’s good enough, I’ll put it in the show. It’s just a bit of fun really, but I guess I’d like to make people think a bit more before opening their mouths. It’s fun to play with people’s perceptions, and I think it helps take away some of the stigma from disability.

Lee performing onstage
Photo – Caroline Briggs

Finally, one of the biggest areas for awkwardness seems to be dating – like in the first date video we’ve produced with Channel 4. Have you got any awkward dating stories?

I have gone on a few dates with girls who have come to watch my comedy, and one date sticks in my mind. First dates are always awkward, but this one actually went really well. The awkward part came the next day when she sent me a list of doctors who she thought could ‘fix’ me. Those were her exact words. Needless to say, we didn’t have a second date – instead, I sent her a list of doctors who could do brain transplants.

Lost Voice Guy is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 30 August. There’s also a fully accessible performance on Monday, August 24.

Do you have any awkward stories about disability? Let us know, and we’ll share our favourites during the campaign.

That awkward moment when… the station attendant follows you into the loo – #EndTheAwkward

Guest blog by 35-year-old Sam who lives in St Ives, Cambridgeshire with her husband and three children. Sam has symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), meaning the muscles that hold her pelvis together are too relaxed and she needs crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Here she shares some of her awkward stories as part of our End the Awkward campaign.

That awkward moment when…

PeoplMother and daughter standing together in a garden, the mum using crutchese want to fix you…

When I’m using my crutches, virtually every day someone will ask me, “Oh what have you done?” usually in a very sympathetic voice. My reply is always the same “I haven’t done anything. I have an unstable pelvis which is a permanent disability”.

People are just taking an interest and they don’t mean anything by it. But sometimes I feel like being mischievous and saying “I was awful in a previous life and I’m being punished!” Of course I never do!

My daughter gets really tired of people asking me about my crutches. So for Christmas she bought a white t-shirt and customised it to say, “Yes, I use crutches. Get over it!” It was very sweet of her.

The helpful staff follow you into the loo…

I was at King’s Cross station and needed to use the loo. A helpful member of staff opened up the barrier for me to get through to the accessible toilet. He also came round and started pushing me, which was kind but not necessary because I can self propel my chair.

We got to the accessible toilet and he opened the toilet door. He then pushed me into the toilets and we were both in there together, when the door closed behind us we looked at each other like, “Oh right, now what?”

He very quickly got all flustered and said, “Oh right, thank you!” and left. His heart was in the right place, he was trying to be supportive and help me. It’s just slightly uncomfortable being in a toilet with a stranger!

The whole world knows you’re disabled…

I remember one occasion when we went to the cinema and the queue to get in was massive. A member of staff came over to me and asked if we would like to go through straight away so that I could sit down. I thanked her and said “yes please”.

We started to walk past the queue and we could hear people muttering “where are they going? Why are they getting through?” So the member of staff proceeded to shout so that all of the queue could hear, “she’s on crutches!! She’s using crutches!!”

I was pretty sure nobody in that queue had a sight impairment and could probably see I was on crutches. That was a pretty awkward moment as there were about 200 people staring at us!

People would rather talk to my husband…

Sam smiling with her husband, both holding drinks
Sam with her husband Will

My husband, my three children and I were in London for the day and wanted to go to a special restaurant for lunch. I called beforehand to find out if it was accessible and they informed me it was and reserved us a table

We arrived and went to the maître d’ where I explained I had reserved a table. She then looked at my husband and asked him if we could use the stairs.

So I answered, “I can but if it’s at all possible I’d prefer to stay in the chair. The stairs a bit steep.” She looked at my husband again and said “That’s fine. I’m just going to call someone who will take you to the lift.”

The disabled access is past all the bins…

The disabled access was in a completely different place to the non-disabled access and it meant we had to leave the children in the restaurant whilst my husband and I were escorted to the right place.

This was outside the restaurant and a bit further down the street, past where all the rubbish was stored.It absolutely reeked and the staff member escorting us was very apologetic!

When we reached the lift it was one of those old fashioned service ones with metal doors. On our way down you could hear the staff at the bottom shouting, “Someone in a wheelchair is coming! A wheelchair’s coming!”

Obviously the member of staff was mortified but as the whole thing had felt a little like we were in a comedy sketch we couldn’t help but laugh!

Sam with her husband, two sons and daughter

You don’t get searched like everyone else…

I’ve noticed that whenever I use my wheelchair at an organised event, I never, ever get my bag searched. When my cousins and I all went to see the Spice Girls, they each in turn had their bags checked but for some reason I didn’t!

We all had bottles of water and my cousins were told they couldn’t take them through to the arena, however the member of staff bent down to me and said, “Oh, you can take your water through”.

It’s an interesting insight into other people’s awkwardness around disability. The fear of offending a disabled person is worse than a fear of a bomb going off – I find that absolutely fascinating!

Do you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media.

Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

Exercises to do at your desk

This September, we’re asking you to get a little more activity into your day, and raise funds for Scope’s work. Sign up today for Steptember and get ready to get active! Here are some exercises you can do at your desk to boost your step count.

There are so many articles out there about different ways to work out at work. We’ve scoured all of the articles to find the best exercises you can do at your desk from every source possible. And we’ve tried to make sure all of these can be done without standing.

1. Stretch

Forbes includes this exercise as one of their 10 best on their website and we think it’s good to start with a stretch. Sit tall in your chair and stretch your arms towards the ceiling for starters. You probably already do this exercise. Then, take your left arm, reach across your body and grab the back of your chair and turn your torso to the right to stretch out your spine. Repeat this with your right arm turning toward the left.

2. Arm pumps

WebMD has a series of great exercises, but most of them involve getting up from your seat. If that’s not an option, you can try arm pumps. If you have any items on your desk that can act as weights, this can help. Hold your arms up at right angles on each side of your head and straighten them out. Try that as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then you can either rest for 30 seconds, or tap your feet on the floor football drill style during that time. Repeat this 3-5 times.

3. Single arm raises

Men’s Fitness recommends a series of workout tips for sitting at your desk, but a lot of these are definitely for the seasoned professional used to gym jargon. This exercise though, is fairly simple. Place your chair against a wall and lift your left arm to shoulder height. Turn your palm facing the wall and push against the surface. Try to hold this until you can’t anymore, or for 15 seconds. Then repeat this on the opposite side.

4. Bicep building

Another tip from WebMD, this will allow you to strengthen your biceps and stretch your back. Put your hands on your desk, somewhere you can hang on. Push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you can see the floor. Then pull yourself slowly back in. Do this 15 times.

5. Hidden leg raises

HowStuffWorks has a series of secret workouts you can do at work if you don’t want anyone to notice. One of the best ones we found is a series of leg raises you can do under your desk. All you have to do is sit in your chair, hold your ab muscles tight, lift one leg toe the height of your hip and hold for 10 seconds, switching to the other leg when you’re done. If raising your leg isn’t an option, consider just tilting your body to one side and using your core muscles to hold the position for 10 seconds, and then switch.

6. Ab clenches

Wisebread makes a fantastic point in that some of these exercises might make you look a little silly at your desk. We think there’s nothing to be ashamed of in getting some exercise in, but in case you’re shy, you can try this one. Just sit at your desk and clench your own ab muscles for about ten seconds, then release. And repeat again in sets of 10-15. You can even do this with your bum muscles if you so wish. You might look a bit irritated or like you’re concentrating hard, but otherwise, no one will know.

7. Wrist stretch

So this is more of a stretch than an exercise – but these are important too! Especially if you type a lot. We’re throwing this in as a common stretch that many people do and something you should too. Put your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Take your left arm and, parallel to your right hand, grab your fingers, pulling your fingers back just slightly and your hand with it until your palm is facing outward instead of up to the ceiling. This should stretch out your wrist and arm. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

8. Tricep dips

Lifehack has a decent number of exercises you can try at your desk, some already mentioned. But this one we think can work for a variety of people, and you don’t need arm rests. Put your arms behind your back, make your hands into fists, and rest them on either side behind your bum. Then try to raise your bum off of the chair. You should feel your tricep muscle engaged. Try holding it for 10 seconds, taking a short rest and then repeating 10-15 times.

9. Cushion squeeze

Sam Murphy writing for the Guardian has a decent amount of suggested exercises in his article, but one of the best ones we found is the cushion squeeze. You can place a cushion or a rolled up jumper in between your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your hips square. Then squeeze the cushion and clench your bum. You should feel your inner thighs and bottom muscles contracting. Hold for five seconds and the slowly relax, but don’t let the cushion fall. Repeat this six times.

10. Cooldown stretches

WikiHow has a collection of fantastic simple stretches you can do involving all parts of your body. For this article, we’ll encourage you to roll your shoulders. Try 10 times backwards first and then 10 times forward. This can help relieve tension all throughout the day.

To get more active, please get a few friends and sign up for SteptemberIf you have any other specific exercises we haven’t mentioned here, please join our community and share them.

On nights out, strangers ask me if I can have sex… #EndTheAwkward

Sam Renke with long blonde hairGuest post from actor Samantha Renke, who is supporting Scope’s End the Awkward campaign and stars in our Awkward Moments film. She has brittle bones and uses a wheelchair.

Not to blow my own trumpet or anything – but I’m a good dresser, some people think I’m attractive, and I do attract good-looking guys.

I love dancing and going out, usually with a big group of friends. All of us tend to be quite loud – you’d definitely notice us in a nightclub.

Because I have a condition that’s commonly known as brittle bones, my bones break easily and I have to use a wheelchair all the time. I am also only four feet tall.

As you might imagine, I have had plenty of awkward moments on my nights out!

‘What’s your favourite sexual position?’

Sometimes people don’t seem to know how to start a conversation with me, so they end up asking very direct questions. Like whether I can have sex, for example.

I wouldn’t go up to someone in the street and say, ‘Excuse me, what’s your favourite sexual position?’

Or I get guys coming up to me and saying: ‘While you’re down there…’ Hilarious. I’m a northern lass and I can take as much as they can give, but I also like to be wooed and treated with common decency. I am a lady after all.

Generally, though, curiosity is a good thing, and disabled people will always come across it. I want to deal with it in a positive way. Ignorance breeds ignorance – how are people going to learn if they don’t ask questions?

Being comfortable with myself

It has taken me a long time to be comfortable in my disability, but I certainly am now.

When I started first going out aged 18 with the girls, I didn’t really get much attention. Boys wouldn’t want to be seen approaching someone in a wheelchair. You could tell some boys had egged each other on to talk to me in quite a jokey way.

Even today, I mainly have relationships with people who have started off as friends, because the barriers have already been broken down. With strangers in bars, it has always been harder.

But even there, it is all about bringing the barriers down. I try and encourage people to be more open-minded.

Don’t be scared!

Black and white profile shot of Sam Renke smiling
Samantha Renke is supporting Scope’s End the Awkward campaign

When I’m attracted to someone, I tend to make nervous jokes – like ‘I’ve never broken a bone during sex’, or ‘I do really want a family one day.’ They’re things non-disabled people would normally say later in a relationship, but I feel I have to do it quite quickly.

But other than that, there’s not much difference between my life and anyone else’s. We all want friendships and love, we want to date, and as disabled people we’re probably more comfortable in our own skin than a lot of others.

You’ll find that most disabled people are fun people to be around. There’s no need to be so scared of approaching us, or to be worrying about getting things wrong. I want people to learn something from meeting me, so if they meet someone else like me, they won’t feel that same kind of awkwardness.

We find a lot of situations quite humorous, and we don’t get offended easily. We’ve probably heard it before!

Do you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media. 

Find out how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

Four summer books about disability

Deane Saunders Stowe smiling for the cameraScience fiction author Deane Saunders-Stowe selects four summer reads by disabled authors or featuring disabled people in leading roles.

For years, I’ve had strange ideas drifting around in my head, but I’d never contemplated writing a novel. Okay, maybe once or twice – but I never thought I’d be capable of writing something that others would find entertaining.

Back in 2011 I met my partner, Kris Saunders-Stowe. Kris lived a rather hermit-like life, somewhat trapped by his disability, hobbling around with a walking stick, until I encouraged him to try using a wheelchair. From that moment on, Kris saw how liberating it could be to move freely and without the tiredness and pain associated with standing.

As our life together slowly progressed we reached a turning point: Kris began training to become a fitness instructor and I felt the first urge to write. While Kris trained, I wrote. While he embraced and overcame his disability, turning it to his advantage and eventually creating Wheely Good Fitness, I developed characters and a plot.

From our dealings with a variety of disabled people from all walks of life, I could see how much of a challenge daily life could be. Kris’s own challenges, both mental and physical inspired the creation of  double-amputee character Aryx Trevarian; our relationship sowed the seeds for a co-dependency between the protagonists.

Disability and science fiction

The front cover of the book, Synthesis Weave
The front cover of Deane’s book, Synthesis Weave

My novel, Synthesis:Weave is science fiction, and one of the things I dislike about the representation of disability in science fiction is the tendency to ‘gloss over’ it or ‘fix’ it. The popular movie Avatar does this – Jake Sully (the protagonist) is a paraplegic and becomes the hero of the film by taking remote control of another body, an avatar. This of course avoids the issue of his disability altogether. I didn’t want to do that – it’s disrespectful to those who can’t simply cast aside their disability.

My character was going to use his wheelchair. Aryx finds a way around using his chair in certain situations, but it’s not ideal. I know that many wheelchair users are more capable than others give them credit for and I wanted to portray that, but I didn’t want to make disability the focus of the book, so it’s just a fact – Aryx is a hero that happens to use a wheelchair. Kris was kind enough to put himself through some discomfort after suggesting we do a photo-shoot to depict one of the scenes from my book.

While trying to promote my book I’ve come into contact with a couple of authors with disabilities, and also several people who wanted to know more about disability being portrayed positively in fiction. I have collated four books which are either written by an author with disabilities, or have characters that portray disability in a positive fashion.

Blind by Rachel DeWoskinFront cover of the book 'Blind', by Rachel DeWoskin

When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colours. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she’s about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why—in order to see for herself what makes life worth living.

Lamont: Moon’s Rising by Rob Brown

The bullet-torn body of a wealthy landowner’s son is discovered floating on a loch in a remote corner of Scotland’s picturesque landscape. Returning from holiday, Detective Crieff Lamont discovers that he has a new partner: the young and inexperienced Felisa Tortolano. Sent to investigate, they find themselves working alongside a detective seconded from Manchester following allegations of racism.

So begins a week in which corruption, deception and dark family secrets strain relationships, while the investigation opens doors leading to more powerful, clandestine characters.
Ever the cold, clear thinker, Lamont finds his mental stability threatened as the week progresses when he has to come to terms with another, more painful truth hidden from him by his wife.

Formerly a Director of Nursing, marathon runner, and outdoor enthusiast, Rob is a T4/5 paraplegic. His characters gravitate toward the mean, the mad, and those in trauma – even Lamont suffers a hidden PTSD, following a friendly bullet in the head.

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

Life Without Limits is an inspiring book by an extraordinary man. Born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic overcame his disability to live not just independently but a rich, fulfilling life, becoming a model for anyone seeking true happiness. Now an internationally successful motivational speaker, his central message is that the most important goal for anyone is to find their life’s purpose despite whatever difficulties or seemingly impossible odds stand in their way.

Nick is a Serbian Australian evangelist and motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally as well as physically, but eventually came to terms with his disability and, at the age of seventeen, started his own non-profit organisation, Life Without Limbs

Love & Justice by Diana Morgan-Hill

Aged 29, Diana fell under a London train. In seconds the tall, glamorous businesswoman went from busy woman of the world to double-leg-amputee, her life in ruins. Then it got worse. A few days later, as she lay in hospital, traumatised and heavily sedated, she learnt that the railway’s Transport Police wanted to prosecute: she had ‘boarded a moving train and trespassed onto their railway line’. Her fight for justice took five years and was a more harrowing experience than having both of her legs ‘stolen’ from her.

Shocked to the core by the sudden, catastrophic change in her body image, Diana had to overcome the issues surrounding sexuality and disability whilst dealing with High Court dramas. Her story is told, amidst a turmoil of emotion, with tremendous humour, charm and heart.

Got a summer book you can’t put down? Leave a comment and recommend your favourite book about disability.